by Pup Matthias

heat-5_coverWe are in the heart of summer. The pools are open, the grills are cooking, and for us writers, Sofawolf’s long running anthology Heat is OPEN FOR SUBMISSION for their fourteenth volume. One of, if not the longest, and the most prominent, anthology in the fandom; Heat is once again open for all of your erotic encounters. But outside of being an erotic anthology, Heat never does a yearly theme like its contemporaries like Roar, Fang, or Trick or Treat.

Heat does not, and has never had, a theme beyond “furry erotica.” Heat occasionally develops themes post hoc, like the Americana theme running through Heat 13. We didn’t choose those stories for being related to Americana: we chose stories because they were good and it turned out that the stories we chose had a lot to do with Americana.

Write the hot and sweaty or sweet and sensual furry story that you want to write. It doesn’t need to–and shouldn’t and can’t–be tailored to what we want.

There is only one thing the people on Heat want?

In brief: short, well-written furry erotica of all orientations with an emphasis on good story.

That is what we want to see in general, but there are certain things we want to see more of. A lot of the stories we get are straight or gay, have a male protagonist, have a young protagonist, have a canine protagonist, are set somewhere in contemporary America, or are fairly straight-forward romance story. Anything that moves away from this would stands out among our submissions.

We’d love to see more stories with a lesbian or bisexual focus. We’d love to see more transgender characters. We’d love to see more female protagonists. We’d love to see middle-aged or older characters. We’d love to see ourselves visiting different time periods or different locales or transported to whole other worlds. And we always love when our writers can mash together erotica with an unexpected genre. (I still think one of my favorites for this is Tempe O’Kun’s “The Case of the Gelatinous Gemstone,” which mixed erotica, comedy, and mystery.)

While kinks are allowable, remember that most of our audience is not likely to share that particular kink and therefore it should not be the primary focus of the story.

However, the editor of Heat, Dark End, points out that there are many common mistakes made when people submit to Heat. He recently posted a detailed blog about it on SoFurry, but if you choose to write for Heat, keep these things in mind to avoid these common mistakes. One of the biggest being, don’t make your erotic story just about the sex.

Failing to proofread is a surprisingly frequent mistake. We’ve seen some pretty egregious typos on the first page that make us really worried about a story.

A lot of the issues we see are related to story structure: stories that wait to get the conflict going until half-way through or that resolve the conflict on page two, stories that try to cram too much in eight thousand words, stories that are confusing, stories where the stakes are so low that we say “What, that’s it?”

By far and away, the most common issue is with writers not knowing how to write a story that makes use of sex but isn’t just about the sex. This is a big one. If I can remove the sex scene and nothing about the story really changes, then the sex isn’t as important to the story as it should be. To borrow a cooking metaphor, in a good story for Heat, the sex should be like a perfect sauce that brings together the rest of the meal together: it shouldn’t try to be the meat, and the potatoes, and the drink, and the dessert.

dark-endDark End would know since he’s been working on Heat in some way since volume 10. Dark End has been apart of the Furry Fandom for over a decade, but only in recent years started writing his own stories and getting some of his shorts in Hot Dish and Heat, plus a host of hypnosis stories on his FA and SoFurry, which in this writers opinion is awesome. I have a thing for hypnosis. Don’t judge. His main work though is editing the various books Sofawolf makes.

I first started working as a story and copy editor on Heat with Heat 10, published in 2013. My duties started expanding, and by Heat 12 in 2015, I was the managing editor. These days my duties include reviewing submitted stories, choosing our final slate of stories, doing full editing work on around three of the stories, and doing a proofreading of the entire final volume.

That hard work has paid off since Heat Vol. 12 just won the Ursa Major for Best Magazine this year. Heat is a major work within the Furry writing community. As far as I can tell, it’s the one all writers want to be accepted in. It helped pave the way for other anthologies and opening the door for many Furry writers. Kyell Gold’s first published story was in Heat Vol. 1. There is a history Heat carries and Dark End couldn’t believe he’s the one in charged of it.

Gobsmacked. Thunderstruck. If you’d told me five or six years ago that I’d be doing this, I might have laughed. At that time, I was a guy with a couple of barely read stories on FA, and now there’s an Ursa Major Award with my name next to it. How did this happen?

I’ve seen how many readers, writers, and editors look up to Heat and, by association, me, so I’m surprised, but I’m also very honored. People trust me to do an important job and do it well. I don’t want to let them down.

At the same time, I am–perhaps surprisingly–not that stressed by the work on Heat. It’s an important work to the fandom and it has major status, yes, but we have a big team so that no one feels like they are the linchpin holding everything together. We also don’t feel the pressure to top what we did last year. We’re not competing with our past selves. We just want to put out a great book every year that shows off the talent of the fandom, and I think we’ve done that fairly well for the decade-and-a-half Heat has been in print.

So now you want to try your hand at writing for Heat. What are the basic rules to know?

Stories should be furry, erotic, and between 4 and 8 thousand words. There is some leeway on the word count, but don’t push it far.

DO: give us your whole story.

DO: edit it several times before sending it to us. Use spellchecker.

DON’T: expect to catch every mistake and typo. We know there will be some.

DO: use a standard font (Courier New or Times New Roman work best) and font size (12 pt is quite standard). Feel free to make use of the standard manuscript format, which you can find examples of by googling, but it’s not a necessity.

DON’T: overexert yourself on formatting. It will all be reformatted if accepted anyway.

DO: Be prepared to work with us on your story, including on possible major rewrites.

DON’T: simultaneous submission. If you submit it to us, don’t have it submitted anywhere else while we are considering it.

DO: feel free to use a pseudonym on your submission (although if we accept it, we will need to know your full name eventually).

DO: use your cover letter space to tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve done writing- and publication-wise, especially if you have never published with Sofawolf before.

The deadline this year is September 19th and is planned for release by next years Anthrocon. Payment will be at the rate of $0.01/ per word. You can learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of Sofawolf’s submission page. But like I said, this is the anthology not only for stories, but poems and comics as well with their own requirements. There will be a lot of competition, but if you want to have a fighting chance, Dark End recommends this.

Pick up a volume of Heat and read through it. See the kind of stories we like to publish. A lot of eager writers don’t realize quite what we mean when we say, “We want a story, not just sex,” until they have read through an issue.

Talk with other writers. Share ideas. Ask for help beta-reading your story and offer to help beta-read other submissions. Visit the Furry Writer’s Guild; even I’m there… sometimes.

Good luck to all the writers and creators, old and new, who are submitting to Heat. May the best erotica win.